August 20, 2012

Placing Customers Before Own Ideology

It has long been a debate amongst marketers whether ownership should put its own views before that of its customers. A bakery in California stopped producing cakes with the US flag as icing because the owner opposed the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. A significant number of customers defected from the store. 

A select few kosher food manufacturers and retailers are said to have abstained from sponsoring the recent Siyum Hashas at Met Life stadium where 90,000 prime kosher customers celebrated the completion of the Talmud. The reason: they feared retribution from some of their customers for supporting the sponsoring organization Agudath Israel that they charge with being “too Zionist.” The problem is that their customer base was by and large represented at the Siyum and certainly does not share those views. 

The conventional wisdom is that most customers will not notice and continue to be loyal because they enjoy the product or the institution. But marketers say that the positive reinforcement that the kosher companies who did participate as sponsors enjoy leads to long term loyalty that often survives any competition. 

Many Fortune 500 companies have long sponsored causes and events that they know speaks to their customer base. Ownership may totally disagree with the cause or share a different ideological twist but they know that their first obligation is towards their customers. Sure, it would be nice if they could support causes that enjoy overwhelming support,  but life is such that in most cases the majority is good enough. 

Something to think about for some of those kosher purveyors that stayed away on August 1st from the Met Life event.